Teachers’ Booklist Summer/Fall 2015

I honestly love doing this teachers’ booklist twice a year. It makes me really think about what I should know and be able to talk about with students and teachers. At this point, if teachers are looking at it, they aren’t talking to me about it. That’s totally fine, but I have no way of knowing if anybody is actually using it for anything. I need to think about ways to actually bring it into conversation and get some information.

I discovered, much to my chagrin, that there is a limit on Smore as to how many flyers you can make. I was forced to look elsewhere for a new resource, and I’m so glad I did. Lucidpress is a fantastic online program that makes a large number of different things. I used a magazine template, but, as you’ll see when you click on it, it works almost like a presentation. There is a limit on Lucidpress, too, but it could work really well depending on what you are trying to accomplish or produce.

Anyway, here’s the list! I’m really excited about this one as I think that I’ve done a good job picking what really will be fairly popular with readers. Several of the books on here are already very popular!

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Summer/Fall Teachers’ Booklist

See this post (article about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers) and this post (Teachers’ Booklist for Spring 2014) for more information on what this whole thing is, how I came up with the idea, etc.

This article is about the booklist I created for Summer and Fall 2014.

Let’s start with the rationale I mentioned in that second post, when I created my first teacher booklist. Updates are in bold.

  • Only 5 titles; I felt like any more than that would just overwhelm already overworked teachers. –> I did this, without even thinking about it. 5 is a good number.
  • Automatically include titles with major film versions coming this Spring. –>I also kept this without even thinking about, especially because these are movie versions of already popular books.
  • My favorite YA book that I read this year should be on there, as long as it has one other qualifier, i.e. if it’s a recent title, one that will be made into a movie, a major award winner from this year, etc. –>I meant favorite book of the previous year here. How can I have a fave 2014 book yet? So this piece of the puzzle only works for Spring booklists.
  • Varying genres or formats as much as possible.–>I tried to do this. More on that in a second.
  • At least one lower level/middle grades title.–>I did this, but on accident; I completely forgot about this 
  • Common Core aligned, i.e. could be used in classes–>Personally, I think any book could be used for Common Core, so I might be personally biased here.

This was a harder booklist to develop. The first three, The Maze Runner, The Giver, and If I Stay, were easy because of the film versions. They’re all already fairly popular books (except in the case of The Giver, a 20 year old title that was wildly popular for many years) and I truly believe the film versions will really boost them. But once I established those, it was harder for me to pick which others to include. I went back and forth between a large number of choices, including Out of the Easy, Eleanor & Park, All the Truth That’s In Me, and Charm & Strange. I ended up choosing Panic and The Madman’s Daughter. I chose Panic because it is a very recent publication, by a very popular author, that has already been optioned for a film. I’m certain it’s going to be huge. In the case of The Madman’s Daughter, I am less certain. It was just named the NCYABA winner and was optioned for film, but mostly I chose it because it was such a different genre than what I had already (although it is sort of sci fi).

I still had a few issues overall, but honestly, except for choosing the books, this booklist went a bit more smoothly.

  • We do have all of these books in my library except for Panic (too new) because I was given some more money with which to buy books, but books can’t be checked out over the summer. Sorry!
  • I’ve also mentioned before that I’ve been told not to email the entire staff at my school. How do I get this list out to teachers without emailing everyone? –> I kept the original problem on here because I liked my solution; I just emailed each department as a group rather than the whole school.
  • I used Smore to create a flyer because I had just discovered that website, and I like trying out new creation tools. I think it worked, generally, but it isn’t the best format to present this type of information. At least now I know how to use it, right? –>I also wanted to keep this original issue on here. I ended up liking Smore way more than I thought I would, so I decided to use it again and find a new one for the next one.

Anyway, here’s the link to the booklist!

Teachers’ Booklist Spring 2014

In an earlier post, I read an article about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers and thought of creating something like a once-per-semester booklist for teachers to help them keep up with some of the popular reading for teenage students.

After spending the fall semester getting settled into my position and feeling out the school and my users, I’ve gone ahead and created one for Spring 2014.

Here are some of the major pieces of my rationale:

  • Only 5 titles; I felt like any more than that would just overwhelm already overworked teachers.
  • Automatically include titles with major film versions coming this Spring.
  • My favorite YA book that I read this year should be on there, as long as it has one other qualifier, i.e. if it’s a recent title, one that will be made into a movie, a major award winner from this year, etc.
  • Varying genres or formats as much as possible.
  • At least one lower level/middle grades title.
  • Common Core aligned, i.e. could be used in classes

It didn’t take me long to come up with this list. Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, both huge books from the last couple of years, have film versions coming out before the end of the school year. Seraphina is my favorite book of the year and won a bunch of awards, not to mention it will be a fantasy trilogy, so it will probably blow up at some point; it just hasn’t happened quite yet. Code Name Verity has been wildly popular already, was #1 on the Teens’ Top Ten for 2013, and is historical fiction, which doesn’t happen often. And The False Prince is arguably middle grades, but was #2 on the Teens’ Top Ten for 2013 and has been optioned for a film.

Honestly, it wasn’t hard to make these choices. Obviously, I might end up being wrong about something being a popular book, but even if that happens, I think this is a good list for teachers to be familiar with at the very least. Films will cause a buzz, and there is a lot of buzz around both Verity and Prince thanks to the Teens’ Top Ten.

I did end up thinking about some issues I had:

  • My library here at school does not have all of these titles. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but it would be a definite bonus to say that I have them. I’ve already been asked by a couple of teachers if we have all of them. I hate saying no. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, my budget doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room.
  • I’ve also mentioned before that I’ve been told not to email the entire staff at my school. How do I get this list out to teachers without emailing everyone?
  • I used Smore to create a flyer because I had just discovered that website, and I like trying out new creation tools. I think it worked, generally, but it isn’t the best format to present this type of information. At least now I know how to use it, right?
  • The Smore flyer is embeddable, but it changes the dimensions of the pictures and doesn’t look right. Also, Smore and WordPress don’t like each other so it won’t embed here.
  • I was concerned that teachers would immediately think that this was a required thing, so I went out of my way to explain that it was just an FYI thing; they could read if they wanted or completely ignore.

I think that about covers my feelings about this. I think this is a really good thing to do, and I’ve already received positive feedback from several teachers. I even had one ask if we could do a discussion group for anyone who reads any of the books. I think that’s a fantastic idea, in small doses. Again, I don’t like the idea of adding on to what is expected of this group of teachers already, which I think is a whole lot, so I’d want to keep it to just one 30 minute session where we can just share our thoughts about the books.

Anyway, here’s the link to the booklist!

Dinosaurs

I’ve been running into educators in my building who seem scared of trying new technology recently. We’ve got a set of iPads that are just starting to be used, my school district is pushing for the use of Google Drive (finally!), and I have confirmation that our tech department will no longer be buying desktops. As my school gets renovated over the next year and a half, we will be transforming our space into what I can only hope will be a school of the future.

But I have a few educators who are not afraid to react to technology like these with wide eyes and the word “no,” as well as others who become extremely frustrated at the drop of a dime.

I truly believe these educators can move forward, but how do I help them be willing to try so that they can?

My mantra about technology is BE FEARLESS! and I try to remind them of that every time we work on something by both saying it out loud and being it myself. If there’s something I don’t know, I will show them how I try to figure things out so that I learn it.

I had one awesome moment recently where one teacher figured out how to comment on a Google document all on her own just by messing around. She was one of the “no” teachers to begin with.

But for the most part, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. We do have a new tech facilitator in our building for eight hours a week, so maybe that will translate into helping. But I feel like our default is to just offer professional development on things, and I’m not sure that taking up more of teachers’ time is a solution. Actually, in some cases, I’m sure that just adds to their frustration.

I don’t want these good educators to be unable to evolve and adapt! What else can I be doing or trying?

 

iPads are here. Aren’t they?

Today was the first day that my school’s set of iPads was ready to be checked out by teachers. We have enough for about half of the students to use an iPad at one time. When you add in the desktops and laptops we also have, we have a device for every student.

And no one has signed up for them. Not even for next week. Or the week after.

No one was banging my door down to get to them.

This makes me sad.

What do I do? How do I get teacher’s to start using them? And not just for themselves but with their students, of course. I feel like they are scared to allow the students to touch them.

One of my favorite other blogs had this post a few weeks ago about iPads and I looked through it again to see if it was any help. It’s a good post, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I know about the apps, I know using iPads isn’t the end goal but what the students create with them and learn with them is, and I think my teachers know that.

I wonder a little bit if that’s causing the lack of banging on my door; they know they can’t just be using them, that there needs to be substance to it, a purpose and they’re not sure what that purpose is yet. Or they’re not sure how the iPad could do it better than what they’re already doing.

I don’t know. I’m sure we will get there eventually. One step at a time.

I had a genius idea today!

I have been working on the new website for my Media Center for about three weeks now. It’s taking a while simply because I find it so difficult to stare at a computer screen for more than a couple of hours at a time. And there’s a lot to think about since I am starting from scratch on this project.

I am really close to being done, with only three sections/pages saying “Coming soon!,” and one of those legitimately can’t be updated yet because I still have a couple of battles to fight.

Part of the way through the day today, I looked at my schedule for tomorrow and realized that I am scheduled to teach the first 45 minutes of three classes for one teacher and give the students in another three classes at the same times a list of web resources for a research project on biomedical careers.

As I am only one Media Specialist, I can only be in one place at one time. I freaked for a minute while I was trying to figure out a way around this problem. That’s when I realized that something like a list of web resources – scholarly, credible places for students to start their research – is something that doesn’t necessarily require that I be present with the students.

And then I realized that students really need a copy of those web resources that they can get access to if they need it again later.

And I realized that, as a Media Specialist leading my school into learning and developing 21st century skills, I needed to find a way to do all of this digitally.

And then I remembered that even the most minor of collaborative efforts with teachers, such as a list of web resources, needs to be documented, for both me and the teacher.

The light bulb went off.

What I ended up creating is a blog page on my Media Center website called “Classes.” I was already using the blog function for news and happenings. On this new page, I can post class assignments by the teacher, title of assignment, and date it was assigned. The text of the blog, in the case of tomorrow’s assignment, is a list of the links I’m offering to help them get started. In other cases, it may be something different.

Each post can be categorized by the teacher, subject, and nature of the help I’m offering. Students can access this at any time, so if a student needs to make up the assignment, they don’t need to come see me as well as their classroom teacher. Best of all since this is by far the type of collaboration I do most often, I do not have to be present in order for it to help the students. I can be present, but it frees up that time, if necessary, for work in other areas.

I think that’s really important when your Media Center is a one-woman show. You have to find ways to make things work without you being present at all times. As one person, you can only do so much. But you can find ways to extend your reach using other resources.

Using YA lit in Classrooms

I went to my first department meeting as a librarian last week. I started with the English Department because I thought it would be the least shocking for my system since that is the department I’m most used to. Mostly, I was there to discuss how we want to handle cataloging the class sets of novels that are housed in the stacks in the Media Center and how handling of those books will help with reading across content areas and build literacy in the school. I will do a post about that later.

But I stayed for most of the meeting, as I should. The conversation lingered on teachers wondering how they are meant to find time and resources to allow students to read texts of their choice, while still holding them accountable for those.

The time issue is not necessarily a concern of the MS, but reading, in general, is, and defending students’ need to read literature that truly reflects their lives and experiences definitely is.

I’m definitely no expert or anything, but finding ways to let students choose their own novels to read was a really important and effective change I made in my classes in my third year of teaching. And after going through library school and studying the reading habits and psychology of teenagers, I feel even more strongly that YA lit should be a staple in high school English classes. Here are some research based facts as to why:

  • Teens are more likely to actually DO the reading, and thus, get better at reading, because YA lit will be more interesting to them.
  • Students learn best when they are able to make connections to what they like, know, and are familiar with. YA lit reflects their own lives.
  • Teens have a lot going on. YA lit is not childish; it deals with the issues that plague teenagers and can help them deal with those issues. Basically, they’re not all about handsome vampires who sparkle in the sunlight (swoon).
  • They will actually be able to make it through this book with only a minimal number of confusing moments. Yes; challenging our readers to think about symbolism and use context clues to define words is important. But so are simple things like questioning the text, drawing conclusions, and making inferences.

Essentially, I’m arguing for more use of modern YA lit for students, or mixing YA lit into classics. We can’t keep expecting students in 2013 to relate to a title written in 1950. The world has changed and it’s time for us to adapt to it.

There are LOT of resources out there explaining more about why we should be using YA lit. I’m working on finding more about HOW we should be using YA lit. I will post any free resources I find.

Reading for Fun

Here is a really interesting article from The Guardian summarizing a research project about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers.

I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything the article and research says.

In my English classroom, we read the “classics” that we were able to in class, but I always had students read their own choice of books outside of class. I love talking with them about their choices and hearing what they had learned, and it always helped when I was able to say “Oh, I loved that book” or “I’m so glad you liked it. It’s the next thing on my list to read!” But it was extremely hard to keep up. I didn’t read Twilight or The Hunger Games until several years after they were first mentioned in my classroom. The article does mention a teacher’s lack of time to read, which was always difficult for me. I read mostly during the summer.

As a librarian, I *should* have more time to devote to building myself professionally through reading, as I won’t have things like grading papers to do. I think it’s really important for librarians to remember that and help teachers keep up with the reading interests of their teenage students.

Perhaps something like a once-a-semester booklist for teachers of books the teens are loving right now, or YA books that have movies coming out that the teens may be interested in, could be helpful to teachers. It would offer suggestions to the teachers for easy reads, and even if they don’t get to reading any of the titles on the list, they would at least have heard of them and be familiar with the plot thanks to the booklist. This could also easily be something done at the end of the year as a summer reading list for teachers. Obviously, this would be nothing required; it would just be something helpful for teachers, no strings attached.

I really like this idea. As a bonus, those are the type of lists I’d be creating for the students, too, so it wouldn’t be a heaping amount of additional work to make them for an audience of teachers instead of students.